The Spider by Leo Carew #BookReview #BlogTour

After the critically acclaimed epic fantasy THE WOLF comes THE SPIDER, book two in Leo Carew’s UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY series
A battle has been won, but the war still wages on . . .
Roper, the Black Lord of the northern people, may have vanquished the Suthern army at the Battle of Harstathur. But the greatest threat to his people lies in the hands of more shadowy forces.
In the south, the disgraced Bellamus bides his time. Learning that the young Lord Roper is planning to invade the southern lands, Bellamus conspires with his Queen to unleash a weapon so deadly it could wipe out Roper’s people altogether.

And at a time when Roper needs his friends more than ever, treachery from within puts the lives of those he loves in mortal danger . . .

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Spider by Leo Carew today. Many thanks to the author, WIldfire Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.

The Spider is the second book in Leo Carew's Under The Northern Sky series following The Wolf which first introduced warring foes, the Anakim and the Sutherners. Whilst this sequel could easily be enjoyed as a standalone, I would recommend ideally reading the series in order to truly appreciate the superb, ongoing world-building and to fully understand what motivates the various characters.
Although they are only separated by a border which divides Albion between Suthdal and the Black Kingdom, the inhabitants of these lands are very different people. The Anakim of the North are led by Lord Roper, whose successes - and failures - in the first book have helped shape him into a generally respected Black Lord. However, his leadership remains fragile and he has many enemies beyond the Sutherners. He is a fascinating character and one of my favourites in the series; he admits to himself that he loves war and yet he isn't an excessively violent man. He is ruthless towards his enemies but haunted by some of the decisions he makes  - and with good reason as his actions have angered the powerful Kryptea who have and will assassinate those who they consider enjoy their power excessively. Perhaps of even more concern is that he also has a traitor in his midst who is furious not to have been given the recognition and honour he feels he is entitled to and consequently is determined to bring the Black Lord down. Roper has his allies too and I particularly like the relationship between him and his wife, Keturah which began as an arranged marriage but is a union of two fiercely intelligent people who share the same sense of humour and have learned to trust and need one another. Roper is always aware of his duty to the Black Kingdom and becomes convinced that the Anakim will need to do more than just win battles against the Sutherners if they are to survive. He formulates a dangerous, contentious plan which  involves having to form an alliance with the Unhieru who occupy a small land in west of Albion. The Unhieru are terrifying and the scene in which Roper and his small band negotiate with their leader, Gogmagoc is brilliant; tense and shocking but peppered with moments of the dark wit which sustain those who live knowing the next battle could easily be their last.
Meanwhile, the Sutherners are more divided than they were in The Wolf, with their clever, ambitious upstart, Bellamus forced into exile. However, a man like Bellamus can't be kept down and has been able to create a web of informers who pass on vital facts about the Anakim, allowing him to pre-empt their movements and frustrate their plans, and who send coded information to his lover, Queen Aramilla who has the ear of the King and is able to use the knowledge she acquires to influence him. As with Roper, Bellamus is one of my favourite characters and for many of the same reasons. He is also an intelligent, thoughtful man who is fascinated by the Anakim and after spending time in the Black Kingdom actually seems to miss the wild land. The Anakim suffer an overwhelming sense of homesickness when away and I was struck by how he seems to be experiencing something similar despite being back on familiar soil. He is also cunning and unsparing when he needs to be and is able to use the information he learns to create a disturbing and deadly weapon which even he hesitates to use.
The two main characters are obviously compelling and I love that this series hasn't gone for the easy good versus evil but instead has a far more believable conflict where although my natural sympathies lies with the Anakim, the shades of grey ensure I also care about some of the Sutherners. On both sides of the River Abus, there are characters who are expertly brought to life meaning I often found myself torn during the gripping battle scenes. The exciting, finely woven plot complements the characterisation perfectly; the battle scenes are brutal, bloody and shocking and the world-building throughout is just fantastic. I loved the scenes set in the two schools in the Black Kingdom - the treetop girls school is beautifully described and I enjoyed learning more about the lives of the women of the Black Kingdom in The Spider, especially regarding the historians and inquisitors. I also thought the sub-plot set in harsh regime of the boys school was absolutely riveting and linked to the main plot so well.
The Spider is exactly what I'm hoping to read in a fantasy novel - vividly imaginative scene setting, intriguing conspiracies, gripping action scenes and characters who are complicated and authentic. The ending has definitely left me desperate for more!

The Spider is published by Wildfire Books, purchasing links can be found here

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Leo Carew is a Cambridge graduate of Biological Anthropology, currently studying medicine at Barts and the London Medical School. Apart from writing, his real passion is exploration, which led him to spend a year living in a tent in the High Arctic, where he trained and worked as an Arctic guide. The Spider, the second book in his Under the Northern Sky trilogy, publishes in spring 2019.